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Center for African American Studies


Eddie S. Glaude Jr.


Wallace D. Best, also Religion

Daphne A. Brooks, also English

Anne A. Cheng, also English

Eddie S. Glaude Jr., also Religion

Tera W. Hunter, also History

Imani Perry

Carolyn M. Rouse, also Anthropology

Valerie A. Smith, also English

Associate Professor

Angel L. Harris, also Sociology

Chika Okeke-Agulu, also Art and Archaeology

Stacey Sinclair, also Psychology

Assistant Professor

Wendy L. Belcher, also Comparative Literature

Joshua B. Guild, also History

Alexandra T. Vazquez, also English

Associated Faculty

Kwame Anthony Appiah, Philosophy, University Center for Human Values

Eduardo L. Cadava, English

Paul J. DiMaggio, Sociology, Woodrow Wilson School

Mitchell Duneier, Sociology

Simon E. Gikandi, English

William A. Gleason, English

Hendrik A. Hartog, History

Judith L. Weisenfeld, Religion

The Center for African American Studies was founded on the assumption that the study of African American history and culture and of the role that race has played in shaping the life and the institutions of the United States is central to an American liberal education. Given the continuing and evolving centrality of race in American political, economic, social, and cultural life, and indeed, in every region of the world, reflection on race and on the distinctive experiences of black people is indispensable for all Princeton students as global citizens. Drawing on a core of distinguished faculty in areas such as anthropology, art and archaeology, English, history, philosophy, psychology, religion, and sociology, the center promotes teaching and research of race with a focus on the experience of African Americans in the United States.

The center's curriculum reflects the complex interplay between political, economic, and cultural forces that shape our understanding of the historic achievements and struggles of African-descended people in this country and their relation to others around the world. Toward that end, the certificate is organized into three thematic subfields:

1) Global Race and Ethnicity: Using race and ethnicity as a lens, students are introduced to a critical perspective and approach to the examination of American institutions (e.g., schools, families, prisons, etc.). They are also exposed to other related questions such as the formation of racial and ethnic identities and the nature of inequality in an increasingly global context.

2) African American Culture and Life: Drawing on the insights of cultural studies, broadly understood, students encounter the rich history, literature, religion, and the arts of African Americans. Moreover, pushing the boundaries of historical accounts of African American life beyond U.S. national borders to include the diaspora in all of its diversity and plurality, this subfield also familiarizes students with many of the contributions of African-descended peoples around the world.

3) Race and Public Policy: Exploring, among other things, the historical, cultural, political, and economic causes and consequences of problems facing African American communities, students examine the various initiatives that have defined American public policies in relation to race. In addition, they are challenged to assess the implications for creating and implementing effective public policies that directly relate to communities of color in the United States.

Admission to the Program

Students may apply for formal admission at any time once they have taken and achieved a satisfactory standing in the core course, AAS 201 Introduction to the Study of African American Cultural Practices.

Program Requirements

In addition to taking AAS 201, students seeking a certificate in African American studies are required to take two courses in the African American Culture and Life subfield. These two courses must be selected from the history (AAS 366, AAS 367) and literature (AAS 353, AAS 359) survey courses, one of which must be a pre-20th-century course. Students must also take three additional courses in AAS or approved cognates in order to qualify for the certificate. Students are strongly urged to take at least two of these additional courses either in the Race and Public Policy subfield or in the Global Race and Ethnicity subfield. The center further suggests that race figure centrally in the student's senior thesis.

In addition to offering a certificate program, the Center for African American Studies provides an array of courses, programs, and internships, open to all students, that expand and deepen their understanding of race in the United States and in the world.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill all the requirements of the program will receive a certificate in African American studies upon graduation.


AAS 201 Introduction to the Study of African American Cultural Practices   Fall SA

An interdisciplinary examination of the complex array of African American cultural practices from slavery to postmodern times. Close readings of classic texts will seek to provide a profound grasp of the dynamics of African American thought and practices. Two lectures, one preceptorial. E. Glaude

AAS 202 Introductory Research Methods in African American Studies (also SOC 202)   Not offered this year SA

The purposes of this course are to assist the student in developing the ability to critically evaluate social science research on the black experience and to do research in African studies. To accomplish these goals, the course will acquaint students with the processes of conceptualization and basic research techniques, and some of the unique issues in conducting research on the black experience. A variety of appropriate studies will be utilized. One three-hour seminar. Staff

AAS 211 The American Dance Experience and Africanist Dance Practices (see DAN 211)

AAS 221 Inequality: Class, Race, and Gender (see SOC 221)

AAS 245 Harlem Renaissance and Black Arts Movements (also ART 245)   Spring LA

This course surveys important moments in 20th-Century African American art from the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s to the 1960s Black Arts movement. Our close studies of the work of major artists will be accompanied by examination of influential theories and ideologies of blackness during two key moments of black racial consciousness in the United States. We shall cover canonical artists and writers such as Aaron Douglas, James van der Zee, William H. Johnson, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, W. E. B. Du Bois, Alain Locke, James Porter and Jeff Donaldson. C. Okeke-Agulu

AAS 262 Introduction to the Evolution of Jazz Styles (see MUS 262)

AAS 305 The History of Black Gospel Music (also REL 391)   Spring LA

This course will trace the history of black gospel music from its origins in the American South to its modern origins in 1930s Chicago and into the 1990s mainstream. Critically analyzing various compositions and the artists that performed them, we will explore the ways the musichas reflected and reproached the extant cultural climate. We will be particularly concerned with the four major historical eras from which black gospel music developed: the slave era; Reconstruction; the Great Migration, and the era of Civil Rights. W. Best

AAS 307 Topics in German Culture and Society (see GER 307)

AAS 317 Race and Public Policy (see WWS 331)

AAS 320 African American Religious History (see REL 320)

AAS 321 Black Power and Its Theology of Liberation (also REL 321)   Fall HA

This course examines the various pieties of the Black Power Era. It charts the explicit and implicit utopian visions of the politics of the period that, at once, criticized established black religious institutions and articulated alternative ways of imagining salvation. It also explores the attempt by black theologians to translate the prophetic black church tradition into the idiom of black power. The aim is to keep in view the significance of the Black Power era for understanding the changing role and place of black religion in black public life. Two lectures, one preceptorial. E. Glaude

AAS 323 Diversity in Black America (also AMS 321)   Spring SA

As the demographics of Blacks in America change, we are compelled to rethink the dominant stories of who African Americans are, and from whence they come. The seminar explores the deep cultural, genealogical, national origin, regional, and class-based diversity of people of African descent in the United States. One three-hour seminar. I. Perry

AAS 324 Race, Sex, and the Marriage Plot in American Film Comedies (also ENG 383/GSS 324)   Fall LA

This course examines how comedy in American cinema has been enlisted to stage race, sexuality, and their conjunctions in twentieth-century America. Taking the marriage plot as the communal narrative through which sexual, racial, and national tensions negotiate their conflicts, this course analyzes films made by, and sometimes about, Jewish Americans, African Americans, and Asian Americans, as well as movies from mainstream Hollywood that do not, on first sight, seem to thematize race but in fact are struggling with the racial and sexual troubles haunting the formation of the nation. A. Cheng

AAS 325 African American Autobiography (also ENG 393)   Not offered this year LA

Highlights the autobiographical tradition of African Americans from the antebellum period to the present as symbolic representations of African American material, social, and intellectual history and as narrative quests of self-development. Students will be introduced to basic methods of literary analysis and criticism, specifically focusing on cultural criticism and psychoanalytic theory on the constructed self. One three-hour seminar. Staff

AAS 326 Landmarks of French Culture and History (see FRE 330)

AAS 327 Blackness in the Early Modern Atlantic World (also LAS 335/COM 376)   Fall LA

This comparative course examines notions of human difference (blackness in particular) via literature, travel writing, and other contemporary materials from Iberia, England, France, and the Americas. As we read these texts, we will consider how modern notions of race, gender, and sexuality have shaped our view of blackness in the early modern world, and, possibly, vice-versa. The ultimate aim of the course is to consider the overlaps and differences between paradigms, images, and theories of blackness generated by Iberian, English, and French contact with Africa, America, and the East. L. Brewer-García

AAS 336 Race and American Politics (see POL 336)

AAS 346 The American Jeremiad and Social Criticism in the United States (see REL 367)

AAS 353 African American Literature: Origins to 1910 (also ENG 352)   Fall LA

A survey of literary materials produced within the African American experience, from the 18th century through the contemporary period, with special emphasis on genre, theme, and context. The course will investigate dominant and marginalized literary histories and the importance of gender, region, and sensibility. Two lectures, one preceptorial. I. Perry

AAS 359 African American Literature: Harlem Renaissance to Present (also ENG 366)   Spring LA

This introductory course surveys literature from the early 20th-century to the present; it covers Harlem Renaissance prose and poetry from writers including Countee Cullen, W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Nell Larsen, Alain Locke, James Weldon Johnson, Claude McKay, and Jean Toomer; modernist poetry by Gwendolyn Brooks and Robert Hayden; drama by Lorraine Hansberry; novels by Ralph Ellison and Toni Morrison; and nonfiction by James Baldwin, Alice Walker, and Richard Wright. The course analyzes aesthetic forms and locates literary texts in social and political contexts. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Staff

AAS 362 Race and the American Legal Process: Emancipation to the Voting Rights Act (also WWS 386/POL 338)   Fall SA

This course examines the dynamic and often conflicted relationships between African American struggles for inclusion, and the legislative, administrative, and judicial decision-making responding to or rejecting those struggles, from Reconstruction to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. In tracing these relationships we will cover issues such as property, criminal law, suffrage, education, and immigration, with a focus on the following theoretical frameworks: equal protection, due process, civic participation and engagement, and political recognition. Two lectures, one preceptorial. I. Perry

AAS 363 Topics in the Politics of Writing and Difference (see SPA 352)

AAS 364 Race, Drugs, and Drug Policy in America (see HIS 393)

AAS 365 Migration and the Literary Imagination (also REL 362/ENG 394)   Fall LA

This course will explore the various meanings of migration and mobility found in 20th-century African American literature. Through careful historical and literary analysis, we will examine the significant impact migration has had on African American writers and the ways it has framed their literary representations of modern black life. W. Best

AAS 366 African American History to 1863 (see HIS 386)

AAS 367 African American History from Reconstruction to the Present (see HIS 387)

AAS 368 Topics in African American Religion (also REL 368/POL 424)   Not offered this year EM

Assesses the value of religion and its impartations of the historical, ethical, and political in African American life. Courses will also critique African American religion from a broader contextual basis by establishing commonalities and differences across historical and cultural boundaries. Two lectures, one preceptorial. Staff

AAS 373 History of African American Art (see ART 373)

AAS 374 Growing Up Global: Novels and Memoirs of Transnational Childhoods (also COM 394)   Spring LA

What if the real answer to the question "Where are you from?" or "Where did you grow up?" is so complicated that you tend to give a convenient rather than honest answer? This course will explore narratives of youthful cultural and linguistic adaptation by those who have spent their childhood crossing national boundaries. Among the topics of discussion are how the narrators construct meaningful identities and produce a sense of belonging or alienation through narrative. Two lectures, one preceptorial. W. Belcher

AAS 389 Women Writers of the African Diaspora (see ENG 389)

AAS 392 Topics in African American Literature (also ENG 392)   Not offered this year LA

A historical overview of black literary expression from the 19th century to present day. Will emphasize a critical and analytical approach to considering the social, cultural, and political dimensions of African American literature. Two lectures, one preceptorial. D. Brooks

AAS 403 Race and Medicine (also ANT 403)   Spring EM

In 1998, then-President Clinton set a national goal that by the year 2010 race, ethnic, and gender disparities in six disease categories would be eliminated. While the agenda, called Healthy People 2010, is a noble goal, there is one major hurdle. No study has definitively determined the cause of health disparities. This course examines the role culture plays in reproducing health inequalities in the United States. For a final project, students will be asked to propose their own solutions for eliminating health disparities. One three-hour seminar. C. Rouse

AAS 408 Forms of Literature (see ENG 402)

AAS 411 Art, Apartheid, and South Africa (also ART 471/AFS 411)   Fall LA

Apartheid, the political doctrine of separation of races in South Africa (1948-1990), dominated the (South) African political discourse in the second half of the 20th century. While it lasted, art and visual cultures were marshaled in the defense and contestation of its ideologies. Since the end of Apartheid, artists, filmmakers, dramatists, and scholars continue to reexamine the legacies of Apartheid, and the social, philosophical, and political conditions of non-racialized South Africa. Course readings examine issues of race, nationalism and politics, art and visual culture, and social memory in South Africa. C. Okeke-Agulu

AAS 412 Cultures of the Afro-Diaspora (also ENG 425/LAO 412)   Fall LA

This course analyzes key readings and studies on Afro-diasporic cultures across the Americas in the 20th century. From reggaes unrelenting rhythms to the dances that move carnival, the New World thrums with activity from populations that have persevered conditions of displacement to create new aesthetic forms. We will investigate expansive notions of blackness that move beyond national paradigms and the productive pressure that performance puts on ontologies of identity such as the Afro-Latino, African American, and West Indian in theory and literature. Artists include Bob Marley, Katherine Dunham, Jorge Ben, and Patato y Totico. A. Vazquez

AAS 428 Latina/o Performance (also ENG 428)   Spring LA

This interdisciplinary seminar examines U.S. Latina/o performance from the 1960s to the present. Students will engage the creative traditions that have emerged from the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, the post-colonial aesthetic concerns shaped by Caribbean migration, and the social preoccupations that have defined urban and suburban life. The class will learn to put formal motifs in conversation with a set of conceptual terms, including mestisaje, borderlands, transculturation, choteo, and disidentification. We will alternate between plays, critical readings, live performances, videos, and music. A. Vazquez

AAS 477 The Civil Rights Movement (also HIS 477)   Fall HA

This course examines the evolution of African American political mobilization from 1945 to 1975. It explores the various ways that African Americans articulated their political demands and affirmed their citizenship, using workers' rights, the church, feminism, education, war, grassroots organizations, the federal bureaucracy, and the law as tools for political action. The readings for this course draw heavily from personal narratives, oral testimonies, and historical scholarship. One three-hour seminar. J. Guild